News, big news, bombarded us relentlessly for the past 12 months.

If the headlines weren’t about election and insurrection, they were about infection and vaccination. I, for one, sometimes felt lost in a swamp of defamation, defecation and decimation.

Day after day, the morning reports brought tidal waves of trouble, the evening news delivered torrents of tribulation. We went to bed at night exhausted, washed up on stony beaches littered with dirty face masks and crumpled campaign signs.

Many of us sank into involuntary deafness. No Marvelous Magic Ear Gear letter left in the mailbox — no matter how exciting, how promising, how only-$499-down cheap the deal was — could convince us we wanted to hear any more. We just wanted peace.

We turned the sound down if we couldn’t turn it completely off. And now we’re beginning to heal.

We watch a PBS nature program where a sly, hungry bear eats a woodpecker’s stash of acorns laboriously buried in the bark of a tall, dead tree. We get a phone call one afternoon saying it’s our turn to get vaccine shot number one. Our first order of seeds – this one for tomatoes, broccoli and bush beans – arrives in the mail.

Even the sun chips in, peeking, winking down through a break in the winter storm clouds and promising warmer days ahead.

Our heartbeats slow. Our thoughts unwind, and casual curiosity begins stirring again. Little licks of life from the past year, little events that nearly drowned in the maelstrom of news, begin coming back to mind.

Scrolling down through the internet stories I filed away, once intending to send them along to others, I find the tale about a guy in Alabama who was arrested for making blueberry wine in the local sewage treatment plant. I recall the guy who bought a jet ski and skimmed across the Irish Sea to see his girlfriend, only to get busted for violating COVID restrictions.

I muse again about the man who wrote his own obituary and had it published in the newspaper the day after he died. That’s a really good one.

The Alabama winemaker’s efforts weren’t appreciated by the authorities, of course, so they fired him. They filed charges that claimed he had unlawful possession of an unlawful alcoholic beverage — and that he used his official position as supervisor of the sewage works for personal gain.

Some people have absolutely no sense of humor.

The jet ski sailor bought his craft from a dealer near his home in Scotland, and in his first voyage ever, sped off toward the Isle of Man between England and Ireland. The 40-minute trip turned into a four-hour ordeal when he ran into choppy seas. After he finally arrived on the rocky coast, he had to walk 15 miles to his beloved’s home.

The 28-year-old and his lass were spending a happy weekend together when the authorities, totally blind to romance, caught up with him. They charged him with stepping ashore without permission and failing to self-isolate. They rewarded him with four weeks in jail.

Shame, shame on them. Just give him a mask and send him home.

Now for the dead fellow. His obit started out, “I, (so-and-so) died yesterday at the age of (something-or-other) after a long and happy life.” He went on to give a brief description of his modest accomplishments, a listing of his survivors and an accounting of relatives who had passed on before him. He provided pertinent information about where his body could be viewed and where it was going to be interred.

One glaring omission, I thought, was at least some salute to himself for thinking ahead and writing his own obituary long before he died — leaving his family with the small task of filling in the last details. Was he sparing his loved ones from the duty of remembering how to spell cousin Sally’s name? Maybe it was “Sallie”, come to think of it.

Or was he trying to avoid the posthumous embarrassment of his survivors writing on and on about what a wonderful, cheerful, helpful vintage Coke bottle collector he was? “Don’t turn me into a saint,” I could hear him mutter as he pecked away at his final writing. “The guys at the club would laugh their butts off.”

These are normal little episodes of normal life. We need to enjoy them, celebrate them, indulge in them ourselves. If we don’t live a little, what’s the point of living?

We have a lot of work to do, a lot of crises to face, for certain. We’re a long way from being out of the woods, and there’s no denying they’re dark and dense woods. But it’s good to seek out a clearing now and again, a place where the sun comes down through the treetops and warms the air.

We need a place to stop, take a long cool drink and slowly breathe in the smells of enduring natural life.

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